Government officials, staff, family members and local residents packed the Mamaroneck Town Courtroom on Wednesday, January 7 for the swearing-in of newly elected officials, including Town Justice Dolores Battalia, Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe and Councilpersons Nancy Seligson and Ernie Odierna.
All four officials were elected without opposition in November. Ms. O’Keeffe, the lone Republican on the board, has been supervisor since 1999 (and on the board since 1993); Ms. Seligson and Mr. Odierna have both served since 1999.
Among the many dignitaries in the room were United States Senator Charles Schumer, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, State Legislator George Latimer and County Legislator Judy Myers. Also in attendance were several current and former mayors and trustees from the villages, including Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld and Mamaroneck Mayor Norm Rosenblum.
But once the dignitaries conveyed their good wishes for the coming year and it was time for Supervisor O’Keeffe’s State of the Town address, the room grew a good deal emptier.
State of the Town: Challenges to Come
In addition to thanking her staff and pledging to continue listening to resident concerns, Supervisor O’Keeffe presented a meaty summary of the past year and the challenges and expectations for the year to come.
Citing the difficult financial conditions in 2008 and 2009, she said Mamaroneck Town has managed to continue providing a high level of municipal services with only a modest tax increase of 2.5% in 2009 and 2010.
Reval a Priority: For 2010, one of Supervisor O’Keeffe’s priorities is moving forward on property tax reevaluation. She noted the Town lost $1 million in non-tax revenue due to a declining real estate market and economy. There were over 800 tax appeals filed in 2009 (as contrasted with 300 the prior year). Acknowledging property reevaluation is a sensitive topic and there is “apprehension” about the process, she nonetheless believes there is very strong agreement that the time has come to revalue properties in Mamaroneck Town.
Continuing “slowly and deliberately,” the Town will be conducting a “comprehensive educational process” so residents understand how revaluation will be done.
Getting Done: Among the Mamaroneck Town Board’s accomplishments of 2009, Supervisor O’Keeffe listed:
- the new parking deck for Washington Square residents and businesses, paid for by a private developer;
- the successful application to Westchester County for a $1 million grant for Garden Lake improvements and flood protection;
- the consolidation of senior services and Section 8 housing for the tri-municipality under one “excellent” facility that will be renovated in 2010 with grant monies; and
- the establishment of a Joint Services Committee to examine ways in which the three communities may promote efficiency and savings by consolidating municipal services. (The committee is expected to issue its recommendations at the beginning of this year.)
Going Green: Supervisor O’Keeffe also noted environmental initiatives achieved and planned, including the purchase by the Joint Sanitation Commission of its second “veggie” garbage truck, which reduces diesel fuel use by 5000 gallons per year. The Town has applied for federal funds for hybrid vehicles and is exploring the use of wind power for the new Sanitation Department building to be constructed in 2010.
Recreating: The Town has completed the link between the Flint Park waterside pathway and the Hommocks Conservation area. Over 1000 children participated in the Town’s summer programs. An evaluative study of how best to maintain the Hommock Ice Rink is scheduled for this year.
Keeping Up: Despite the economy, the Town will continue with highway, equipment and sewer pump improvements. The consequences of ignoring “our very important infrastructure” can be “devastating,” she said.